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Social Media: Does it Cause More Harm than Good?

Content Warning - This article contents mention of Mental Health and Eating Disorders

Social media is used by millions of people worldwide to keep in touch with friends and family, keep up to date with the latest news and watch on repeat their favourite viral videos. Whilst social media seems harmless on the surface, it can actually be seriously harmful to peoples mental health. This is because it can expose people to bullying, unrealistic views of other people’s lives and also peer pressure. This unfortunately means that social media has strong links with the increased risks for depression, anxiety, loneliness, self-harm and even suicide.

The Beauty Standard

Whilst putting a funny filter on a picture is all good fun, the use of filters itself can be harmful. This is because filters and photo editing can be used to erase flaws which people do not like about themselves, to create a perfect image. This image creates an unrealistic perfect ideal. By seeing brands, influencers and other peers edited pictures, it can make others feel dissatisfied with their body as they are comparing themselves to this false beauty standard. This can result in a lower self-esteem and make people feel uncomfortable in their own skin without using editing. Consequently, this can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. For almost 2 in 5 Brits, not being able to achieve the ‘picture perfect’ body image affects their mental health. This is due to the constant comparison and competition they feel every time they open their social media accounts. Now influencers do not intend to cause this harm when they post pictures and videos. We all post the best pictures which may not represent our everyday selves. However, this whole idea that there is this beauty standard that we all should meet puts a ridiculous amount of pressure on us. We feel as if we need to meet this quota which can be met through extreme measures such as intense dieting or plastic surgery.

Not only can scrolling through social media cause mental health issues, but also the comments left by other users. Hate comments or trolling happens way to often in our society. When people see someone who does not meet this social constructed idea of the beauty standard, they are bullied into thinking that they are not good enough. This can lead to mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders. People’s words leave mental scars forever. You could get a hundred positive comments and you would not believe it but that one negative comment you get, you do believe and it sticks with you forever. This can show the impact that words can have on someone’s mental health.

Social media promoting body positivity

Social media can actually fight back against the beauty standard and promote body positivity. This is because influences and brands can use it to promote self-love and acceptance. They can highlight a diverse range of bodies to show that all shapes and sizes, races, physical abilities and gender identities are welcome. In 2020, Dove started a campaign for body confidence to make “beauty a source of confidence, not anxiety”. In this campaign they promote real education, real diversity and real health, to work towards the goal of better self-esteem. Not only are companies promoting body positivity, but also influencers. As we have already discussed, social media is a powerful tool in promoting certain lifestyles so influencers are taking their platform to spread positivity instead of negativity. They use their platform to show their everyday self rather than an edited one. They also openly talk about the toxic beauty standard and how to love yourself in your own skin. This can create a community which then provides encouragement, understanding and empathy to help people in the journey of body positivity.

What can we do to spread body positivity?

It’s time that we make a change. To get rid of the beauty standard and instead promote body positivity and self-love.

So what can we do ?

To promote body positivity we can use positive affirmations which helps us to speak self-love aloud and often. You can also surround yourself in positivity by curating your social media feed by looking for people who encourage you to be who you are. We can also compliment others as sometimes we judge others too harshly as that’s the way we judge ourselves. So instead, we should complement others as it makes them feel good but also us. As the kinder we can be to others, it means we can also open ourselves to be a lot kinder to ourselves. We would also be spreading body positivity to contribute to the community of self-love.

The whole beauty standard in the media has been around for too long, so let’s get rid of it. Instead, let’s bring in body positivity and diversity to replace it.


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